Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Making It Up As I Go Along

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I like silence. And peace and quiet. Which is why, for the last ten years, I have not listened to music, apart from ironically.

I wonder why music does nothing to move me, is devoid of meaning and is an irritant against a backdrop of peace glorious peace. Someone suggested that it was a phase – that having three children in relatively quick succession meant that all I wanted was a break from sound. He could be right.

But I think it is deeper than that. I think it is to do with the physics of it. Or the fact that I am “musical”. There are great pieces of music. My “favourites” are Bach’s double violin concerto, Brahms 1st Symphony, Rhapsody in Blue… Bohemian Rhapsody, even. But I wouldn’t listen to them. Not today. Too much effort involved appreciating them. Each of them I’ve played, analysed, picked apart, re-enacted… and I totally ‘get’ them. And in that, they are too much for my mind.

So saying, over the last six months, I have undergone a musical renaissance of sorts. My youngest turned three in April and was therefore old enough to go to Sunday School. This meant that my sporadic incarceration in “the creche” is over. Yay! And toddlers are not my area of gifting, so I will never (never say never) go back. I was asked to play violin in church one Sunday, then the next, then the next – and I’m still there.

This was all fine.

On Saturday I went to a “Music Ministry” conference in Edinburgh and went to a ‘solo instruments’ seminar. It was great, but a bit of a musical leap into the mists of the late 1990s when I knew what was what. The facilitator suggested that the role of the solo violinist was to “improvise” and there was no point in playing the tune.


I like to play the tune, or the alto line, or the alto line an octave up. But I do find that I do what he said we shouldn’t: “noodling” – which apparently is playing random notes that sound ok in a vague way. I do that a lot. I think he has a point.

What I am supposed to do is to work out spoofery wee bits and cool wee runs, patterns and arpeggios to fill minim-gaps and launch refrains and choruses.

I always feel really self-conscious doing the random spoofery bits that you hear on the CD. Always feels a bit naff. But apparently that is the way forward. And I shouldn’t hide within the vocal range – I should be lower or higher. Eek. People might hear me!

The other factor is the whole “improvisation” bit. The good news is that it’s not spontaneous. Apparently I will be able to figure it out. Here’s hoping.

Today, I spent the morning cleaning the kitchen, listening to our band play. I think the guy is right. I should avoid the tune and do fillers and links. I hope I can do it right, in tune and not worry about people hearing… I will have to work on it though.

I hope I have the capacity to make up improvisations without lapsing involuntarily into ABBA at inopportune moments.


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10 thoughts on “Making It Up As I Go Along

  1. I am finding your musical journey as fascinating as your philosophical one. Oh please do keep sharing.

  2. I am not musically inclined but I too find silence to be very welcome. I can only imagine but music must be very personal for you, different than it is for me. I do envy those who have the talent for an instrument but I guess not enough to take lessons for myself. I’m glad that you are back to playing every week, let me know if ABBA ever creeps in, I’m sure that it wouldn’t be bad, they sang of love.

  3. Like this blog … from one who struggled to do anything other than the tune or alto line too … the very word improvising strikes fear in my heart! You are much more talented – I’m sure you’ll get there in time…

  4. I, too, find it difficult to concentrate while hearing music. I tend to hum along, get lost in the math behind the music, and forget what I was writing. In that it is intended to deliver its own message, it rightly should be that music would clash with writing. At least, for me, that is how it is.

  5. Rickster on said:

    Aside from strumming (the guitar, obviously), noodling is the only kind of playing I can do… :o(

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